Commissar Hung Du'o'ng smiled, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand.
"..and so Comrades, I say to you that liberation will bring a chicken for every pot, a wide selection of fitted kitchens for all, stair-lifts for the elderly…what in the name of Ho Chi Mihn!" his exclamation was prompted by the newcomer who had run into the communal house that served as his lecture room at Mi Sac and fallen prostrate on the ground, as though possessed by demons.
Commissar Hung did not believe in demons, he had been to Dresden for political training and there his East German trainers had told him such things no longer existed. And yet in this case Hung was not so sure.
"What is the meaning of this intrusion? I was just getting to the bit about power showers!"
The new arrival looked up and addressed the Commissar.
"Won't you take me to Phun Ki Tan!"
The Commissar could not believe his ears.
"Phun Ki Tan?" he repeated.
Commander Phun Ki Tan and his men regularly used Mi Sac as a source of food and succour, hence the need for the Commissar to keep spreading the word about the benefits that the villagers would enjoy once the North and South were joined. Nevertheless it was most unusual for any local to ask to see the local VC Mainforce commander, a man known for his cruelty more than his military skill. The intruder was speaking again.
"I am a worker at the American base, and I have information that is valuable to the cause of freedom. The Americans will be coming here today with a convoy of their motor vehicles. I heard this from the Vietnamese interpreter. It is like you have told us, they will attack our homes. We shall be killed. Phun Ki Tan must help us".
The small subterranean command post was airless at the best of times, and this was not assisted as Commander Tan was smoking pungent French cigarettes in seemingly endless succession.
"We must hit them hard. We must fight them on our terms. We must strike and withdraw and then return to strike again. We must get in close so that the Americans cannot use their artillery or aeroplanes to hit us, and yet we must be like creatures of the forest who are there one moment and gone the next."
From the cupola of his M113 Lieutenant Randy Buckmeir surveyed the terrain with a practiced eye. This was his third month in the field and pretty soon he was expecting to be transferred to Saigon into a staff position. Ahead of him the lead vehicle was maintaining a steady speed, and to his read he could see the other two APCs heading the column of half a dozen trucks that contained the Company of infantry that were due to sweep the area around Mi Sac. Reports of VC activity in the area had been reaching the ARVN intelligence officer on the base with alarming regularity. It seemed that not all of the local population were impressed by the idea of a communist utopia.
The ambush was over as quickly as it began. A hail of RPG rounds from the treeline, all of which missed their targets, and a smattering of small arms fire were enough to get Chowalski in the last carrier firing his 0.50 cal in reply. Ahead of him Lieutenant Buckmeir saw the lead APC accelerate to get out of the ambush zone and he could feel by the increase in speed that his own driver was doing likewise. Damn! The column was stringing out badly now. He must do something.
Moments later the rounds from the heavy machine gun were ricocheting off the front of the M113. Buckmeir cursed, this was a new enemy position; he could see the muzzle flashes directly ahead where the road bent round at the base of the hill that dominated the road all the way to Mi Sac.
"Get off the Goddam road! Head for the elephant grass"
The two M113s swung to their left and the two infantry squads spilled out as the fire from the VC HMG scythed above their heads.
It was a moment of madness, and Lieutenant Buckmeir was not sure then nor later that it was the right thing to do, but he did it. Running forward, his two squads following him, he ran into the ambush. One section went to ground in the ditch at the edge of the road, the fire too intense to allow further movement, but Buckmeir was not to be stopped. Men were going down around him, but others were keeping up with him and the enemy position, a small bunker, was now only feet away.
"Fire in the hole". The explosion was muffled, the firing stopped for a moment and then began again. A second grenade however ended its chattering, five dead VC and two dead Americans, but the enfilading position that could so easily have destroyed every truck on the road had been silenced due to the Lieutenant's speedy reaction.
An explosion on the road. Buckmeir looked back. Two hundred yards away an M113 was burning brightly. My God. He prayed that the men had got out before the RPG had hit, there could be no survivors in that inferno.
Jesus H Christ. Ray Chowalski could see them now. The second RPG round had given away their position on the edge of the road. Smoke was billowing from Schmidt's M113 but a could see as clear as day. He had watched, for a moment not comprehending what we was seeing, as the man in black pyjamas aimed and fired his rocket. Now the belt fed 0.50 cal was firing in response. Where there had been two black clad figures was just a fine pink mist as the RPG team were simply torn apart by the heavy calibre rounds.
Towards the rear of the column Captain Rock Gonads was on the radio. What in Hell was happening? Nobody seemed to want to tell him.
Second platoon leapt from their truck amid a hail of fire. As the first squad raced for the treeline two men went down. On the road Lieutenant Hooper was calling for a medic while applying the tourniquet. Sergeant Burlesque braved the fire to bring in the abandoned truck under fire and the badly wounded man was loaded on board. To his left the M60 squad was now in action. Thank God.
On the ridge Commander Tan signalled a withdrawal. The Americans were getting organised now, and the firepower coming is way was terrifying. Slipping into the tunnel complex he watched his men drag in three dead men as their comrades attempted to clear up the blood trail that could lead the Americans to their nest.
On the road Captain Gonads was now pulling back the squads that under Lieutenant Hooper had begun to sweep up through the dense undergrowth towards the ridgeline. He had fast movers in the air and needed to get his men back away from the target. Pink coloured smoke was now pouring from a smoke round up among the trees. Let's see how Charlie likes Mr NP1.
This was a frantic and action packed game of Charlie Don't Surf. The scenario was designed to test the skills of the VC to the extreme, and their commanders were briefed pretty comprehensively on what they could do in order to get the drop on the US players. This was done as the forces were completely unbalanced. The US had a Company of leg infantry in trucks and with a four M113s providing fire support. The VC had just thirty infantry in three squads, one RPG team, one recoilless rifle and one HMG in a bunker crewed by rear-enders who ignore Shock due to them being mad buggers.
So, the VC hit hard and disappeared, hit hard from another direction, hit hard again from the first direction and so on. This plan worked well while there was initial chaos amid the US ranks, immediately after the first ambush the M113s became strung out - Lt. Buckmeir's heroics up front did a heroic job in silencing the HMG, but left them isolated as Chowalski at the back of the platoon had been obliged to enter a firefight due to a near miss.
Once the US got a base of fire established then the table turned. The VC could not stand up to the firepower being dished out so they did what they do best, slipped away. By that time, however, the balance of casualties was well stacked in their favour as a direct hit on an M113 had wiped out a whole US squad and other casualties brought this up to about a dozen US dead compared with about five for the VC. The lesson learnt was that as soon as bullets begin to fly it is time to get out of the APC!
Top game, and a good test of the rules. We had a thirty minute de-brief at the end and everyone was pleased with all aspects of what happened. I am persuaded that with the work we've been doing the rules are now robust, but I do need to completely re-arrange them as they don't flow in the way they are set out. However I am not doing that for a couple of days as I am sick of the sight of the computer screen! This week will be spent making jungle and rubber plantations. Much more fun.